Published 30 July 2021, The Daily Tribune

With the 2022 national elections fast approaching, an important principle in political or elections law to discuss is the Condonation Doctrine. The Condonation Doctrine, also known as the Aguinaldo Doctrine, provides that a re-elected public official cannot be removed for an administrative misconduct committed during a prior term, since his re-election to office effectively operates as a condonation of his past misconduct to the extent of abolishing the right to remove him therefor (Aguinaldo v Santos. G.R. 94115, 21 August 1992). To place it simply, re-election extinguishes administrative liability.

The Condonation Doctrine had been considered as good law for more than half a century until the doctrine was abandoned in the case of Carpio-Morales v Court of Appeals and Binay (G.R. Nos. 217216-17, 10 November 2015). The decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Benabe abandoned the Condonation Doctrine for lack of basis in the Constitution, the Local Government Code, nor any of the laws of the Philippines.

In reviewing the Doctrine, the Supreme Court explained that the Condonation Doctrine is plainly inconsistent with the concept that “public office is a public trust,” and the corollary requirement of accountability to the people at all times, as mandated under the 1987 Constitution. With the abandonment of the Condonation Doctrine, public officials seeking re-election to the same posts can no longer invoke the Doctrine to escape from their administrative offenses.

Last March 2021, however, the Supreme Court clarified the effectivity of abandonment of the Condonation Doctrine is prospective or enforceable upon finality of the Carpio-Morales decision, which was on 12 April 2016. Thus, the Condonation Doctrine can no longer be used by elected public officials as a defense if they have been re-elected on or after 12 April 2016.

This clarification was enunciated in a Supreme Court En Banc decision (G.R. 237330, Madreo v Bayron; G.R. 237579, Ombudsman v Bayron, 3 November 2020). The case involved an administrative complaint filed by one Aldrin Madreo against former Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron and his son Karl Bayron.

Lucilo, who was elected as mayor in 2013, entered into a contract of services with Karl, engaging him as Project Manager for Bantay Puerto-VIP Security Task Force. The position entitled Karl to a monthly compensation of P16,000 from July 2013 to December 2013.

In November 2016, both Lucilo and Karl were found administratively liable and were meted the penalty of dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman. Both were also indicted for Falsification of Public Document for declaring that Karl “is not related within the fourth degree of consanguinity/affinity” with Lucilo.

In his Petition for Review to the Court of Appeals, Lucilo alleged that his re-election in the 2015 recall elections and 2016 local elections, absolved him from administrative liability. Thus, Lucilo contended that he can no longer be removed from office by reason of the Condonation Doctrine.

From given facts above, the Supreme Court held that the Condonation Doctrine is applicable to Lucilo’s re-election in the 2015 recall elections but not to his re-election in the 2016 elections.

The Court did not differentiate a recall election from a regular election. According to the Court, recall election presupposes the same collective resolution of the constituents to condone the alleged misconduct. Thus, the Court applied the Condonation Doctrine to a recall election.

The Court, however, did not apply the Condonation Doctrine to Lucilo’s re-election in the May 2016 elections because the Doctrine, by then, had already been abandoned. Consequently, Lucilo’s re-election no longer had the effect of condoning his previous misconduct.

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